Anne, I have heard you talk about keeping your kids with you at all times when they are young. Can you please share a full day as to what this looks like? I feel I have a different understanding than what you are talking about and want to understand so I can use with my little ones.
Originally written November 5, 2017
I’d be happy to share, but I’ll be honest that I’m nervous to share. First of all, I don’t want any young mother out there, struggling with life, to compare her life to some blogger’s life and end up feeling miserable. I also want all the young moms to understand that as seasons change, new babies are born, homes and jobs are changed, and parents learn and grow, schedules and routines always change. Ask the Father for His advice and guidance for each day, and don’t fret about tomorrow!
Secondly, many of my parenting methods are controversial and un-politically correct in today’s society. However, because my oldest son will be 22 this month, and all my young-adult children have a close and loving relationship both with me and with Abba their Creator, willingly desiring to walk in His ways on their own initiative, and acting like best friends with their father and me, I am not one bit sorry for going against society in how we have parented our children. I am teaching my children to do these same methods with my future grandchildren and to look for spouses who will support them in this. And if YHVH should bless us with any more children ourselves, I would do it all over again.
The Basic Premise
The verse that convicted me when my children were very young is this one:
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15, NKJV).
Yes, I do believe in spanking, in the context of a loving and teaching home, but I believe that most of the spankings happen between the ages of crawling baby and 3, with meaningful mommy-means-what-she-says swats to padded, diapered behinds.
I also believe in rebuking my children swiftly when I catch them doing wrong, which is easier to do when I’m in the same room or very close by. My “no” is again meaningful, not angry but very firm, and after the age of about 3, accompanied with the reason why, using a short Scripture verse whenever possible. I believe my children should look in my eyes and acknowledge my words with a “yes, Mommy” as soon as they can communicate at all. My words are to be obeyed right away, with a happy heart, or there will be immediate consequences. Otherwise, our home is happy, peaceful, and fun, and after any punishment, it is my job to not nurse a grudge against my naughty children but to keep the atmosphere pleasant.
Finally, I believe that my children should be with me (or Dad) when they are awake. My primary job in life, after being a wife, is to be a mother. Whenever I break my rule (and I’m not perfect), I am embarrassed and a bit shocked at the trouble my kids can get into!
No Matter What Size House
We have seven dear children, and this month, their ages are from 22 down to 8 — so no little ones at the moment! I’ll try to share what things were like at various stages, especially when they were young, so you can get an idea of how we did things. I’ll abbreviate like this:
- ds means dear son
- dd means dear daughter
- yo means “year old”
- Therefore, 8yo ds means “8-year-old dear son.”
Over the past 22 years, we have lived in 10 different houses. Most of these houses were quite small!
- #1 Apartment: We moved here when first ds was 5 months old, and we lived here two years.
- #2 Apartment: We moved here when ds was 2 1/2 years old. Early the following year, when my ds was 3, our dd was born. We lived here 2 years.
- #3 Former Christian-School Building: Yup! You read that correctly! (long story…) We had a gymnasium with a kitchenette in the corner, locker rooms for bathrooms, and an upstairs and main floor classrooms for our living areas and bedrooms. It was WAY TOO BIG. I first learned the need for keeping my children close while living here. It hadn’t been a problem in tiny apartments, but here, my children could quickly get away from me. Oh, 6 weeks after moving into this building, our ds was born, so I now had 3 children, ages 4, 1, and baby. We lived here two years.
- #4 Small Modular 3-Bedroom Home: We lived here 5 months, and our dd was born just before moving in, so I had a 6yo, 3yo, 2yo, and baby.
- #5 Small Modular 4-Bedroom Home: Very small, but one of my favorite homes. Lived here 1 1/2 years. No new children born here.
- #6 Large-to-Me Modular 4-Bedroom Home: Around 1400 square feet, this home was still small compared to some, and with an open floor plan, I could see just about everyone and everything. Our 5th child (dd) was born here, so now my children were ages 8yo, 5yo, 4yo, 2yo, and baby. We lived here one year.
- #7 Very Small 3-Bedroom Farmhouse: We lived here 3 1/2 years, and halfway through, our 6th child (dd) was born. At her birth, our children were ages 10yo, 7yo, 6yo, 2yo, and baby.
- #8 Small 2-Story Parsonage with Basement: We lived here 4 years, and the first year there, our 7th child (ds) was born. Our children were 12yo, 9yo, 8yo, 6yo, 4yo, 2yo and baby at his birth.
- #9 Larger Home in the Country with 3 Floors: We lived here 15 months, and it was the most difficult home for parenting. I felt like I could lose my children during the day. I loved the comfort of this home with its peaceful views and large kitchen, but my husband and I have decided to never again have a home where the bedrooms separated us like that home’s did. When we left this home, our children were ages 18yo, 15yo, 14yo, 12yo, 10yo, 7yo, and 4yo.
- #10 Our Current Small Home in Town: We have lived here now for 3 years. Our home is 1300 square feet, and most of our days are spent on the small main floor together. My 22yo ds works in his bedroom office many days, which he shares with his 17yo brother when he is doing his geometry or science reading. My 18yo and 15yo daughters use their bedroom when sick. Very occasionally (once or twice a week?) my 12yo and 10yo dd and their almost 8yo brother will play in their room, but listen, these rooms are TINY, and once bunk beds and dressers are in there, not much room is left for toys. Their Lego collection is in the Big Boys’ bedroom, but since those guys are working, most toys are brought down to the main floor — by me! When teens aren’t sleeping or doing very specific homework, they are down in the living room — by me! The kitchen is the hardest room in this house, because it’s around the corner where it’s surprisingly hard to hear things. However, my nearly grown children do a large amount of the cooking now, so that helps. Even still, I’m literally steps away at any time, and I have no young children.
Except When They Are Sleeping
Here comes the politically UN-correct part. While I’m a home birther, breastfeeding, anti-vaxxer, relatively crunchy mom in many ways, I do not believe in a family bed or attachment parenting.
I do believe in showing tons of physical and emotional love to my children, and I adore holding babies, even wearing them. I just don’t hold sleeping babies, and I don’t nurse them or rock them to sleep. I lay them down awake to sleep in their own bed (which could be a crib or in a very small house, a pack-n-play will work). Our master bedrooms have been very small, and we can’t fit a king-sized bed into them. But even if I could, I would not! I put my newborns into a laundry basket or pack-n-play next to my bed (depending on how small the bedroom is — seriously, guys, my homes have been small!), and I keep my newborn very close to me round-the-clock during what I affectionately call my Babymoon. We just snuggle and rest.
However, around 6-8 weeks old, I do something a little weird. I nurse my baby, then I keep him awake for just a little while — on purpose! I change his diaper, tickle his toes, play with him and talk to him, and enjoy him in every way. But when he starts to yawn and show signs of sleepy, I put him in his own crib or lay him on my bed where it’s quiet.
I don’t believe in the cry-it-out method! I’ve never had to use it, not with seven children! I just tell my little guy that this is normal, and he goes along with it. He sleeps through two sleep cycles (about 90 minutes total), and when he wakes up cooing and happy (because truthfully, we haven’t had tears with this method), I go in, pick him up and snuggle him, and immediately nurse him thoroughly, about 15-20 minutes for each breast, with a good burp in the middle. This cycle continues all day long. Sometimes my babies will have a slightly fussy period in the evening, so I will nurse him a little sooner, often around 11 pm. But then it’s diaper change and back to bed (awake!) for baby. For a young baby, this nighttime sleeping is very close to my bed, where I can hear his sucking sounds and realize if he is waking up hungry. I usually feed a young baby once or twice in the night (again, both breasts each time on purpose), with the lights off, only changing the diaper if necessary, then quietly tucked right back into bed near me. Baby usually wakes me up around 7 am, often cooing and laughing, and the whole day starts over again.
I don’t call it a schedule, because I’m going off the baby’s hunger and sleep cues, but I do call it a routine because I follow this order: FEED — WAKE — SLEEP.
And I have ridiculously happy, smiley babies. I feel very attached to them, and they feel very attached to and loved by me.
Please don’t send me hate mail. 🙂
As my babies get older (several months), we graduate to a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and a short catnap in the evening. By 18 months or so, when they lose the need for a morning nap, we just have an afternoon nap. I keep this afternoon nap time until my children are around 5 years of age, even if it just gradually turns into a “rest” time with no sleep. It is quiet, in their own beds, and all of us in the house do quieter activities until mid afternoon.
So What Does a Day Look Like?
I’m not sure which day to choose, from which ages of my children and which home we lived in. So I’m going to start with one from my favorite house, which was #5, the small modular home. We had a kitchen with a counter separating it from the dining room, plus 4 small bedrooms, a small laundry room, and a living room with a cozy wood stove.
When we moved into this house, my baby daughter was about 6 months old and very happy. I also had a 3yo ds, a 4yo dd, and a 7yo ds in second grade (and a puppy and a cat). We were a very eclectic homeschooling family at this point, using a bit of Sonlight and I was starting to write my own Bible curriculum.
I don’t remember the times of the days we did things, but I can remember the basic routine. I would wake up at 7am and nurse the baby. After changing her diaper, I would put her in a playpen in my bedroom while I took a shower and got dressed. As my older children would wake up, they would usually play quietly with toys in our little (8′ x 8′) play room, about 10 feet from my master bedroom. I could hear them easily. (Note: We had a rule in our home that each child stayed in bed until the sun came up and mommy or daddy were up.) My husband was home until 7:30 am, when he left for work. The little ones enjoyed helping him make his coffee in the morning.
Soon after, I was out in the kitchen. Baby would be hungry for solid foods by this point, so she would sit in her high chair. I fed my children with a spoon, not allowing them to make a mess all over themselves, and teaching them to say please and thank you (with sign language) and have basic manners. I believe in teaching by preventing problems ahead of time, rather than having to do a lot of correction of bad behavior and reteaching later. When done with breakfast, I would give Baby small toys to play with in the high chair while I fixed breakfast for the rest of us. I did not allow Baby to throw her toys on the floor.
Then we ate breakfast together at the dining room table. Baby could sit on my lap (not allowed to touch my bowl or spoon), or crawl around the floor near us and play with toys. Then I would do dishes, then walk my preschoolers through their simple chores. This was a great time for baby wearing. However, when Baby was crawling, I set boundaries, I did not allow her to touch things that did not belong to her, and my goal was teach obedience to my voice and respect for her siblings’ property.
We would then have Bible time together. I would hold Baby while standing at the end of the table and rocking her, or put her in a bouncy seat right next to me, but by this time, she was often getting a bit sleepy. When she started yawning, I would go change her diaper and tuck her into her crib for her morning nap, which would usually last around 90 minutes.
I needed to use this time to get homeschooling done! So this was the house when we first started doing Together School! I needed to do math and phonics with my 7yo ds first, because his asperger’s brain needed to get these over with while he was fresh. We did short, easy lessons. Then we did our read-alouds and any other activity that I could think of together at the dining-room table. My 3yo and 4yo would stay with us for this, but when they lost interest, they were allowed to sit nearby and play with toys or color with us at the table. I would rotate toys so that each day’s toys were interesting. They were to play quietly or whisper, so that my reading-aloud could be heard by all. I asked lots of questions, to be sure they were paying attention. We would enjoy making notebooking pages to show what we had learned, or acting things out.
When Baby woke up, I would sit in my rocking chair to nurse her (next to the dining-room table, and also next to a large sliding-glass door that overlooked our small, fenced-in back yard). My other children would play right outside, but I could see everything they did. We lived in sunny, northern Arizona, so this worked most days, but if the weather was bad, we would go sit in the living room together while my children would watch a short video on TV. I didn’t usually read aloud at this time because I was getting tired, and they were getting tired and a bit hungry themselves.
Next was lunch, and this looked a lot like breakfast. After lunch, my two preschoolers would prepare for their nap (with a short story that I would read to them on the couch first). After they were tucked in, my 7yo ds could help me by playing with his baby sister while I did lunch dishes. (Note: I was not above using paper plates for lunch when I was tired!) Then he played with toys of his choice, and Baby would play near me playing on the floor. My computer was in the same room, and while Facebook hadn’t been invented yet, I was writing books by this time in our lives.
The afternoon details are a bit foggy, because that was about 15 years ago, but I do remember that eventually (maybe around 2 pm?), Baby would go down for her afternoon nap. It wouldn’t be long until my 3yo and 4yo were waking up and would enjoy playing together. I don’t remember that we did any more school activities, although I do remember something I called “Arsenic Hour.” It would happen after 4 pm, before supper. By this time, the toys could really be getting to be a mess, snacks were needed, a bit of boredom might be setting in, and I needed to continue housework, laundry, and supper preparation. This is the house where I learned that having a set time to clean up toys, with some fun music going in the background, really helped with moods — mine especially! I burned CDs of music just for this. Then I had the kids listen to books I had recorded on tape (wow, I’m dating myself here!), with a little “ding” sound for turning the page, while I made supper. They would do this on the floor in the dining room, which was right where I could see and hear. It wasn’t perfect, but it helped.
Depending on the time of year, sometimes my husband would be getting home by now. Whew! Other times, he worked very long hours and wouldn’t return until late in the evening. Much harder! However, I remember that once we got supper in our tummies, we all felt better and could continue on to bath time, tickle time, maybe a short board game, another bedtime story, etc.
This was just one season of our lives. You’ll notice that we mostly stayed home. This was because we lived in a very remote location. At other places, we still tried to keep extra-curriculum activities to a minimum. I’ve never been a big fan of homeschooling co-ops, sports, and another activities that prevented us from being together. We did each of those things a little bit, but our rule was only one extracurricular activity per year, so that only one school day is spent outside the home at the most. I would try to do all grocery shopping and errands on that day as well, together with all my children, so that we could get back home and stay home and on a routine.
In other seasons, we had overwhelming medical needs which required many trips to doctors and hospitals. We did a lot of “road schooling” those years, with book bags filled with learning activities, as well as audio books to help me out.
And I’ve been on bed rest during a couple pregnancies, at which time I learned that all my children, no matter the age, can be in the living room with me. They can fetch things and be helpful, prepare simple breakfasts and lunches, and help siblings use the bathroom, but otherwise, we’re in the same room together.
As my children became older and proved themselves obedient and trustworthy, as well as kind to their siblings, I would allow them to play in their rooms together. They have built special memories together as they were “sent to their rooms” for being good. However, if they were unkind, fighting, or caught being disobedient (or slacking on their schoolwork if I would forget to check something), they were back with me in the living room until their behavior improved. Playing is a privilege, not a right!
And I’m at a much different season now. My husband usually works at home, and I work online, writing curriculum for you, and I have 4 teenagers and an adult child. My children are all growing up! However, I still have a responsibility to keep my eyes and ears peeled, ready to correct, teach, train, rebuke, hug, and discuss.
Seasons will come and go, and each year, we’ll have to adjust things to be the parents that Yah wants us to be at that point in our lives, but my goal remains to be available to my growing young adults for long conversations, discussions of the world around us, and lots of memory building and inside jokes. At this point, we just like to be together and choose each other first as the ones we want to spend our time with. Even when we’re in a different room or driving to separate events, we text each other and send Facebook messages to each other. We even have our own private group on Facebook where we send silly memes and inside jokes, as well as tell each other about news we’ve heard and talk about what the Torah says about those things.
I don’t believe in attachment parenting. But I do believe in being attached. 🙂 It’s a wonderful thing!
Recommended Resources (affiliate links):
- Read about our daily routine and how we would set up school with preschoolers in the home in my own book, The Four Foundations of Lifelong Learning. This book is free to all HomeschoolingTorah members. Everyone else can find it here!
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.
- Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg
- On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
- On Becoming Baby Wise Book Two: Parenting Your Pretoddler Five to Fifteen Months, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
More Pictures, just because they are fun!
Do you have any parenting book suggestions re: parenting a toddler aged 2.
Elizabeth Shults says
I loved reading this thank you! I would love to have a third baby and do things differently than I did with my first two. Is there any way you can give more details about putting the baby down awake? Did you use a pacifier? Did you darken the room? I have so much anxiety around sleep (perhaps because it is so poor right now) and I feel heart broken because at this point my husband and I both feel too exhausted at the prsspect of having another baby because of our sleep difficulties. I told myself I’d never co-sleep- yet here I am; out of desperation, and not wanting to cry-it-out. Anything you have to tell me (or encourage me with!) would be so appreciated! (I currently have a 3 year old and 9 month old and am trying to hone in on a schedule like yours described above!) thank you!!
I don’t know if you read the comments on your old posts, but if you do, I have a few questions:
1) How did you keep things from getting crazy in the living areas? I have a 6 year old son, along with a one year old son and two foster babies (11 months and 6 months). My oldest son starts bouncing around and jumping and flipping and generally being hyper, so I send him to the playroom so he can quit bothering me and making me worry about him crushing the babies. He doesn’t really expend much energy when he is outside unless other children are over. He is very mean to other children, as well as WAY over active when they come to visit. Honestly, I feel like I am failing as a mother in SOOOO many ways :'(